Earth Sciences Major (B.A.)

Earth Sciences Major (B.A.)
UNH Earth Sciences major students outside exploring the environment

What is a Bachelor of Arts in earth sciences?

This program is tailored to students who desire to obtain a broad education and a general background in the earth sciences with a greater degree of freedom in choosing electives than in the Bachelor of Science programs. The earth sciences B.A. program nicely complements other majors or minors, and by careful choice of electives, students can prepare for graduate or professional school, business or industry.

Why study Earth sciences at UNH?

The location of UNH, on the Great Bay Estuary and close to the White Mountains, provides an ideal backdrop for hands-on learning opportunities for all Earth Sciences students. Students have multiple options to immerse themselves in research experiences in the field and in state-of-the-art laboratory settings, and funds are available by competitive application for support of such opportunities. Employment for geoscientists is projected to grow 14 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than many occupations and reflecting increasing needs for energy, environmental protection and responsible land/water/resource management. Graduates may also use their geosciences degree to complement policy, business or legal careers.

Potential Careers

  • Energy sector specialist
  • Environmental consultant
  • Geologist
  • Geospatial scientist
  • Hydrogeologist
  • Oceanographer
  • Physical scientist
  • Science journalist
  • Secondary school teacher

Earth Sciences Undergraduate Coordinator
Phone: (603) 862-3139
Office: Earth Sciences, James Hall Rm 308, Durham, NH 03824
  • Earth_Sciences major student Katherine_Weick
    Meet a Wildcat in Earth Sciences
    Watch Katherine Weick discuss her favorite things about attending the University of New Hampshire and advice for those who are considering UNH.
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Curriculum & Requirements

The Bachelor of Arts degree in the Department of Earth Sciences provides students an opportunity to obtain a broad education and a general background in the Earth sciences  with a greater degree of freedom in choosing electives than in the B.S. degree programs. Through careful choice of electives, students can prepare for business, industry, public service, the non-profit sector, graduate school or, in combination with a M.Ed. or M.A.T. certification program, a career teaching in secondary schools.

Plan of Study Grid
First Year
ESCI 400 Freshman Field Seminar 1
ESCI 401 Dynamic Earth 4
MATH 425 Calculus I 4
CHEM 403 General Chemistry I 4
ENGL 401 First-Year Writing 4
ESCI 402 Earth History 4
MATH 426
or MATH 439
or BIOL 528
Calculus II
or Statistical Discovery for Everyone
or Applied Biostatistics I
CHEM 404 General Chemistry II (Recommended) 4
Inquiry Discovery Course 1 4
Second Year
ESCI 5/6__ (number > 512) 4
ESCI 530
or ESCI 534
Geological Field Methods
or Techniques in Environmental Sciences
Discovery Course 1 4
Foreign Language 2 4
ESCI 512 Principles of Mineralogy 4
Discovery Course 1 4
Foreign Language 2 4
Discovery Course 1 4
Third Year
ESCI 5/6/7__ (number > 512) 4
PHYS 407
or BIOL 411
General Physics I (/PHYS 401)
or Introductory Biology: Molecular and Cellular
Free Elective 3 4
Discovery Course 1 4
PHYS 408
or BIOL 412
General Physics II (/PHYS 402)
or Introductory Biology: Evolution, Biodiversity and Ecology
ESCI 6__ 4
Free Elective 3 4
Discovery Course 1 4
Fourth Year
ESCI 7__ 4
Free Elective 3 4
Free Elective 3 4
Discovery Course 1 4
ESCI 7__ 4
Free Elective 3 4
Free Elective 3 4
Senior Captone 4
 Total Credits129

One course must be taken in each of the remaining Disciplinary Groups of the University Discovery Program (Biological Sciences; Environment Technology & Society; Historical Perspectives; World Culture; Fine & Performing Arts; Social Science; Humanities).


The foreign language requirement may be fulfilled by a full year (8 UNH credits or equivalent) elementary course in any foreign language including American Sign Language, 1 semester (4 UNH credits or equivalent) of any foreign language beyond the elementary level, or by taking a College Board foreign language achievement test.


Students should consider additional courses in Earth Sciences and other science and math courses.

Degree Requirements

Minimum Credit Requirement: 128 credits
Minimum Residency Requirement: 32 credits must be taken at UNH
Minimum GPA: 2.0 required for conferral*
Core Curriculum Required: Discovery & Writing Program Requirements
Foreign Language Requirement: Yes

All Major, Option and Elective Requirements as indicated.
*Major GPA requirements as indicated.

Major Requirements

Complete (with a C- or better in each course) a minimum of eight courses in the department, including the following:
ESCI 401Dynamic Earth4
or ESCI 409 Geology and the Environment
ESCI 402Earth History4
ESCI 512Principles of Mineralogy4
CHEM 403General Chemistry I4
Five advanced-level courses, two of which must be 700-level or above15-20
Math Requirements
MATH 425Calculus I4
MATH 426Calculus II4
or MATH 539 Introduction to Statistical Analysis
or BIOL 528 Applied Biostatistics I
Total Credits39-44

Note that ESCI 401 Dynamic Earth, ESCI 402 Earth History, ESCI 405 Global Environmental Change, ESCI 409 Geology and the Environment, ESCI 420 Our Solar System, ESCI 501 Introduction to Oceanography cannot be taken to fulfill Discovery Program requirements for majors in the Department of Earth Sciences.

It is strongly advised that students complete, as early as possible, a year each of college chemistry and physics.

Capstone Experience

A capstone experience is required of all undergraduate Earth sciences majors during their senior year. All capstone experiences at UNH must meet one or more of the following criteria:

  1. The capstone synthesizes and applies disciplinary knowledge and skills.
  2. The capstone fosters reflection on undergraduate learning and experience.
  3. The capstone demonstrates emerging professional competencies.
  4. The capstone applies, analyzes, and/or interprets research or data or artistic expression.
  5. The capstone explores areas of interest based on the integration of prior learning.

Suggested ways of meeting the capstone requirement in the Department of Earth Sciences include approved INCO 790 Advanced Research Experience, ESCI 795 Topics/ESCI 796 Topics field courses, ESCI 799 Senior Thesis, URA/SURF/IROP projects, internships, environmental/geologic field camps, REU programs, or Earth Sciences education and outreach activities designed according to the above criteria. Capstone experiences must be equivalent to a minimum of 2 academic credits. Students should work closely with their faculty advisors to define the most appropriate capstone experience for their Earth Sciences degree program, although the capstone mentor can be someone other than their primary faculty advisor. All capstone experiences must be approved and certified by the faculty advisor and the capstone mentor. Presentation of projects or experiences developed for the capstone is encouraged at the annual UNH Undergraduate Research Conference or other appropriate venue.

Students will be able to:

  • Recognize common Earth materials and structures.
  • Describe how Earth scientists construct the geological time scale and apply geochronologic dating techniques.
  • Describe the broad attributes of and interactions within the Earth System, as well as its geological history, how and why it is changing today, and how those changes impact society.
  • Understand Earth processes and cycles.
  • Perform simple calculations to process and evaluate quantitative Earth science data.
  • Interpret a geologic map and cross section in terms of the sequence of geologic events and understand the processes that caused those events.
  • Collect, interpret, and synthesize basic field observations and measurements to develop and test multiple working hypotheses to explain them.
  • Become proficient in basic geological and Earth science laboratory skills.
  • Describe the basic dynamics governing the evolution of the Earth’s climate.
  • Successfully apply basic calculus and chemistry to Earth science problems.
  • Effectively communicate results of scientific inquiries orally, visually, and in writing.

Explore Program Details

A key requirement of the Discovery Program is the completion of one senior capstone experience, to be supervised and approved within the major.

Senior Capstone Experience 

Resume and an ideal course schedule by semester for undergraduates interested in the BA in Earth Sciences option can be found here

Department flyer can be found here.


Departmental Petition for Program Variance - Petition for major requirement

Registrar Forms - including Petition for Variance in Academic Policy (Petition for University and/or Discovery requirement)

Those interested in the Earth Sciences (B.A.) major may also be interested in the following advanced degrees. Students in the program also have the opportunity to participate in the UNH accelerated master’s program.

Earth & Environmental Science Ph.D.

Earth Sciences M.S.

Earth Sciences: Geochemical Systems M.S.

Earth Sciences: Geology M.S.

Earth Sciences: Ocean Mapping M.S.

Hydrology M.S.

Oceanography M.S.

Oceanography Ph.D.

Take the Next Step

undergraduate student in front of campus building
Students on the lawn at Thompson Hall
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